If you haven’t figured it out by now, I like to write.
I don’t really consider myself to be a brilliant writer. But I really like it. Ever since high school, I’ve always enjoyed getting my thoughts on paper and communicating my ideas through words on a page (and now, a screen).
But it wasn’t until recently that I was able to fully understand exactly why I enjoy writing so much.
Early in my first semester of OT school, our mental health professor brought in a guest speaker. The purpose of his visit (and of the 14 previous years of visits to this classs) was for him to share his life story in the sequence in which an OT would administer the Occupational Performance History Interview-II (OPHI-II). Our job was to practice making a narrative slope that matched his occupational history, a task that can be done with a client to get a better idea of how occupation has influenced or participated in the ups and downs of his or her life.
As this man shared his story, he talked about how he really liked to write, and he described his need and passion for writing in a way that really resonated with me. This is what he said:
You know how, when you’re holding a full pot of water, you have to walk forward really slowly so that the water doesn’t spill off the top? But, then, if you do spill some off the top, it allows you to move forward faster? Writing for me is like spilling water off the top so I can move forward faster.
That’s exactly how it is for me. I always knew that, but I just couldn’t articulate it with such clear imagery. When I am working through thoughts or issues, and then I am able to articulate them using written words, I am then able to proceed with my life and my thoughts. When I don’t work through my thoughts in writing, they either bottleneck and I can’t focus on anything else until I write about them, or they disappear and I miss out on adding that block to the foundation of discovery I am building toward my personal and professional future.
Sometimes these thoughts are related to my Christian faith. Sometimes they are related to relationships or discoveries about how the world works. And sometimes they are related to my education or profession, which is why I wanted to start an OT blog. I don’t want the things that I am learning to bottleneck or to disappear. I want to make the most of them, and continue to build on them as time goes on.
And so, I will continue to process my thoughts in writing so that, like water spilling off the top, I can move forward more quickly.
But as an OT student (of course!), this realization about my own need to move forward in life through writing makes me wonder: is this how other people feel about the occupations they enjoy?
If a person really enjoys gardening as a means of enjoyment and dealing with stress, and then she has a stroke and now can’t garden like she used to, will she feel like the effects of the bottleneck? Like life can’t move on in the same way until she can get back to gardening? That’s how I feel about writing.
If a person really enjoys playing golf because it’s fun and competitive and it gets him away from the stress of life, and then he sustains a spinal cord injury in a car accident, will he feel like life’s demands are piling up, because he no longer has that outlet in the same way that he used to? That’s how I feel about writing.
I think this realization about why writing is so important to my own well-being has opened my eyes to just how influential the use of occupation is in everyday life. What a great time in my education to discover this!
So now I feel like I not only better understand myself, but I can better understand why it is so important for people to engage in or return to occupation as a means of engaging in life.
Perhaps we all have some sort of outlet (or at least we should!) which will allow us to move forward more quickly in our lives. And unless we use those outlets, and let the water spill off the top, we will feel stuck in one place.
Here’s to letting the water spill off the top.